Thursday, October 31, 2013

In Between

JERRY: You rented 'Home Alone?'

GEORGE: Yeah. Do you mind if I watch it here?

JERRY: What for?

GEORGE: Because if I watch it at my apartment, I feel like Im not DOING anything. If I watch it here, Im out of the house. Im DOING something. 

- Seinfeld 

Today is a nothing day. Nothing important.
Well, today is Halloween.
By the time you read this, yesterday would have been Halloween.
But, as I am writing this late Thursday night,
today is Halloween.
But my husband and I didn't have kids yet, and we never really "did anything" on Halloween.
So, like I said, today is a nothing day.

All of the days surrounding today, however, are filled with emotion.
The days that have passed, and the days coming up.
Lots and lots of emotion.
This past Sunday, October 27th, was my wedding anniversary.
Would have been 7 years.
I hate that I have to say "would have been."
We didn't even make it to 5.

I spent the day Sunday driving to the road where our venue was, and still is.
Sea Cliff, Long Island.
I sat by the water where we took our pictures.
Where his ashes are scattered.
I walked along the sand. I sat on a bench and stared.
I tossed a message in a bottle into the bay.
I sobbed. For 2 hours straight. I really did.
It just kept coming.
The tears.
They shot out of me like a flood or a tidal wave,
fighting and begging to be heard.
So I sat.
And I listened.
And I talked.
But mostly,
I listened.
To the silence.
To the low tide.
To the hope, that I could somehow hear or feel his love, somewhere deep inside.
I listened.

Tomorrow, just 7 years ago, we left for my parents beautiful time-share on Cape Cod, to spend our 10 day honeymoon. While there on the Cape, we celebrated his birthday, which happens to fall on November 6th, Election Day. After that, other emotional future days will also come up. Such as Thanksgiving. And the day he proposed to me underneath that Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in NYC, one week before Christmas. And then, of course, Christmas. My favorite day of the year, that I now dread with every fiber of my being. New Years Eve. And then we get to start the whole damn thing all over again ........

But today,
right now,
in these moments of silence that I sit here and write,
while my roommate is out celebrating the holiday,
and while my new life often leaves me alone on nights,
exactly like this one,
is a nothing night.

And it is nights like tonight,
these nothing nights,
these days that fall in-between 
other relevant nights,
it is these evenings and these hours,
that I feel the loss most of all.

For tonight,
just 7 years ago,
on Halloween night,
we were not doing anything at all.
We were doing nothing.
and doing nothing, together
is so very delicious and incredible and sexy
and boring and wonderful and adventurous
when you are deeply in love.

We were watching "Its The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown",
and we were packing for our honeymoon,
and we had ordered some take-out Italian,
and we sat on our couch in our living room,
with our legs and our hearts intertwined,
loving our newly married life,
that was only 4 days old.

And we did nothing at all.
and nothing was everything.
But now,
is just
And doing nothing,
All alone,
is not the same,
as doing nothing,
with your person.

And so these nights,
these nights of nothing that are
In-Between other nights,
they Hurt.
They remind and they bring back to the surface,
and they wound and they push in all the places,
that you don't want pushed.

On these nights,
being left alone here,
with only my thoughts and my heart,
it is dangerous.
It is painful.
It is vulnerable.
I am naked,
sitting next to grief,
Inviting him,
Enticing him,
Enabling him,
to come out and play.
And when he does,
and he always does,
I will be ready,
and I will be silent,
and I will sit still,
and Listen.
Just listen,
for that small, tiny, important moment
right before the wave crashes
right after the wind blows
right before the grief starts howling,
and yelling,
and berating,
and overwhelming,
and controlling.

I will listen,
for your love,
of the In Between. 

Pictured: Sea Cliff, Long Island, on Sunday, October 27, 2013. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happily Ever After ......


...... is just a line in fairy tales. 
No one knows that better than those of you reading this blog.

But then ...... if we're honest ...... it always was.

Yes, many of us had great marriages.
But none of us had perfect marriages.

Many of us had terrific partners.
But none of us had one who was perfect.

I always found it interesting how suddenly perfect Jim became ...... after he died.
Don't get me wrong, he was a good man and a great husband.
Most of the time.
Those are the four words that people seem to forget ...... "most of the time".

Sometimes it's the widowed who see our loved one through the veil of grief that separates us from our true memories.
But most of the time, at least for me, it was others who suddenly seemed to promote Jim to the level of sainthood ...... or as close to it as a non-Catholic can get. 

In the beginning those comments were comforting.
But after a while they started to get irritating.
And then very irritating.
Because seriously?  Could anyone actually live up to the selective memories that people tend to gain after someone dies?
Not only that, but would anyone actually want to live with someone who was that perfect? I don't know about you,  but I would've found a such a spouse to be a huge pain in the ass.
Plus, it always felt like the closer Jim came to perfection, the further away I drifted. 
And I was nowhere close to it when he was alive.

So maybe I won't be living happily ever after because I'm widowed.
But I'll settle for how I would've lived ...... and how I'll continue to live, with or without a spouse:
Normally ever after.
With happiness stuffed in there as often as possible.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inane distractions

Recently,  the cable through which my house receives both TV and internet had a major fault.  It lasted 4 days. 
...and I nearly lost my marbles.

Part of the reason was that I needed to log onto the work system to download the latest files for school, but part of the reason was that I have come to rely on the television to provide an inane, background distraction whenever my brain wandered in to places I'd rather it not revisit.

I told two friends about how much I had come to rely on the television to provide me with entertainment and distraction from being lonely and grieving. ....

Both friends are highly articulate women who are well read, interesting, and intelligent.

One of them knew exactly what I was talking about.  She agreed that TV could indeed provide a valuable distraction that was great for whenever you were both tired and emotional to take your mind elsewhere for a while and allow it to rest.

The other one suggested that I go read a book instead because TV is "just a crutch"....

Guess which one of my two friends is another widow.......

Sometimes all that I need to go from feeling low to feeling OK is half an hour of watching Stephen Fry on QI or Doctor Who.  I need to distract the part of my brain that  deals with language and memory ... and with less effort than that required to read and comprehend  a chapter of a book.  (Having said that, I still read each day, but its not something that calms me down.  Rather, it is something I do when I am already calm.)

I can and do use other distractions frequently, but for me, the winner on an evening when I am feeling lonely and sad and angry that Greg had the hide to bloody well DIE on me is TV.

Am I alone in this?

Monday, October 28, 2013


"I hate goodbyes" Every time Dave and I would say goodbye for more than a day or so, we'd reenact this scene from Dumb and Dumber.

I'm in the disorienting world of goodbyes again as I navigate the end to the first real relationship I've attempted since Dave died. Fortunately I have the most amazing friends who have helped keep me afloat but the sadness is right there at the margins, waiting to take over if I stand still long enough. I'm beaten down and tired of goodbyes and of crying until my eyes are alarmingly swollen. I've become almost fascinated with the levels of redness and swelling my eyes have achieved in the last few days. I'm thinking of documenting it for a medical journal.

A friend is also facing the end of a relationship and we were talking about breakup basics: how to know you've tried hard enough and it's time to let go, how to know someone is "the one", previous embarrassing relationship mistakes. I found myself explaining how I knew Dave was TRUE partner material for me. I had so many stories of how I knew he was my one, that finally it dawned on me. If it is to happen again for me, I will recognize it when it comes. It will be obvious. It will not be hard to figure out. DUH.

Shortly after meeting him, my grandmother had a stroke and did not recover. I hadn't been especially close with her, but I called this brand new guy in my life and said "I'm not sure why I'm calling you, because I'm not even that sad, but my grandma just died". He hung up relatively quickly, and I thought maybe he just was too uncomfortable with emotion to handle it. A few minutes later, he was on my doorstep, out of breath, because he'd run to me, across campus, in the middle of the night just to be by my side. I didn't know how sad I was until his presence on my couch next to me allowed me to open up.

It was also how he turned to me for comfort that I noticed early on. I picked him up at his dorm one afternoon and he was running a temperature. Through the afternoon, his flu got worse and he let me baby him and allowed himself to be completely vulnerable with me. He was deeply grateful for my presence so I felt needed and wanted from the start.

It's THAT I want again one day. It's that knowing that I miss. Knowing he was there for me and would allow me in to be there for him too. It was his dedication to me and the way I felt at ease around him. I slept better and my grades improved when I met him.

Our relationship had its rough edges we continually worked on polishing and was not for a moment perfect, but it was a safe and welcoming place to always return to. I have to remember that I deserve to have that again and nothing short of that is worth my love.

I miss that guy of mine so much. There is a feeling of safety and home I haven't felt since he left this earth. I hope I can find that again one day and I hope it's possible to find it even if I don't find another partner. I don't want to depend on another to provide that feeling, but so far, without Dave, it hasn't returned. I'm not sure how long it'll take to have it again. I'm not sure if it's possible to have it without a partner. Biologically, maybe, having the best friend/life partner/soul-mate in my life, is what makes it possible to feel that way. I'm not sure. I wasn't afforded that feeling growing up so I'm not sure if I just lack it because of that and I can create it myself, or if this is just the natural urge to be partnered up. It's also hard to figure out if I'm just feeling left out of what society deems most important - making a family.

What I know is that I have a ton of love to give. The man who might earn that love again will be one lucky guy. I also know that apparently, I'm capable of risking love again. A fear I had right after Dave died was that I'd shut down my heart completely after what I'd been through. In some ways I've been protective of my heart, but mainly, I haven't shut down and become locked inside my fear of loss.
It may dictate some of my actions and MANY of my thoughts, but mostly, I fought those fears and opened up again.

This didn't end the way I'd hoped, but it ended the way I needed. I can't see far enough ahead to know why I needed this, but I suspect it was to teach me how to get what I want. No, not just how to get it but how to believe I deserve it. It happened to teach me not to be ashamed of my needs. That my needs are not too much for someone. They're just needs, like everyone has. It's teaching me that my baggage is fine. Everyone has it and I'm actively working on mine, preparing myself to be able to be present in a relationship, if that is to happen to me again. I have a feeling an older me will be very clear on all of that.

I had a dream a few nights ago that I was going to move into a new place and I was getting my first look at it. It was stunningly beautiful and seemed to be plucked right out of my imagination's idea of the home for me. It wasn't perfect but it was perfect for me. The view from the bedroom was the most beautiful view I've ever seen. I felt lucky, safe and so excited to know this place was mine. I kept feeling a "I get to have all of this?!" shock run through me.

When I woke up I could remember the dream in more detail than I usually can. It only took a few moments for me to work out the message of this one. The new home represents what I deserve, what I can hope for - blissful happiness again. It's out there somewhere and it's not just something some people have and I don't, it's mine to have, period, because I deserve it. I don't know why it's mine to have or why I deserve it. I had it before and it was taken from me, but it's still mine to have somehow, somewhere. I CAN desire it, hope for it and find myself worthy of it. I don't have to keep thinking that the great stuff only happens to everyone else. It can happen to me too.

It's infinitely easier (and much more sad) to give up hope for that kind of happiness. Not hoping for it, swearing it off forever, means that if by some crazy miracle it happened, I'd be happily surprised, and if it didn't, I'd have no hopes built up that would be shattered again. But I guess I'm kind of stubbornly hopeful and continue to hope even though it scares me so much and I half wish the hopes would quit whispering to me.

So, I'm saying goodbye and that hurts and I'm flooded with regret and shame and feelings of rejection, but I also know that I needed this. I needed to be reminded of what I can hope for.  There's no guarantee I'll find it, but that doesn't mean that I don't deserve the very best.

The blissful feeling I felt once when I was deeply loved. That. That's what I deserve.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Checking Out

I have known for a while I suffer from widow brain. Can’t find my keys, barely remember what day it is or what my name is. I have looked for my car keys for twenty minutes only to find they were in my hand.. the whole time. I have to set reminders in my phone from things like taking my sleeping pill to grab my lunch out of the fridge before leaving for work. I have to have a reminder for everything.

Lately I have noticed a new side effect of widowhood. I guess it goes along the lines of widow brain. Maybe I have always had it and I’m just becoming more aware of my “issues.”

I can be talking to someone and a smell, sound or memory side tracks me. I check out. It’s like I step out of my body all together. The noise around me stops. All I can hear is my thoughts. While I can see the person I was talking to still talking to me, I can’t hear them or comprehend what they are saying.

I check out and go down memory lane. I leave the person talking while I take my brain elsewhere.

The memories start clicking before my eyes. Noise, smells, memories, it’s like an old projector playing a movie of my life. Bits and pieces of my life. Jumbled together, skipping from scene to scene and back again.

Eventually my check out stops. The noise around me comes whooshing back and I can hear the conversation again.. but I have no clue what they just talked about.

I’m sure I just stare at them with a blank face, not realizing I am looking at them, because I can only see the movie of my life in front of my eyes.

I find myself asking people to repeat themselves constantly and I can tell some people grow frustrated with me.

I have been trying to stop checking out when I am with someone. But it seems to be an automatic thing my brain does. There seems to be no control over it.

I have accepted I can’t control it.. so I’m taking the other side of things.

If you are with a widow and they seem to have checked out in middle of a conversation, here’s some tips.

First – Stop talking. Don’t take it personal. They are trapped behind a movie screen of their life and have no control over what is flashing in front of their eyes. Just stop talking and let them be checked out for a while.

When they come back, ask if they are okay.

Then start your conversation over and act like the check out never happened.

Don’t blame them for not being present. Don’t tell them they aren't listening.

Please be patient with people that are suffering from widow brain and checking out. While it is frustrating to you, it’s even more frustrating to the person that is widowed.

Please remember we have no control over what our brain automatically does. As much as we like to think we have it under control, the truth is most the time we don’t realize we have nothing under control.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


It was one day after the one year mark of losing him.

I was on a plane to Spain.

One backpack in tow. Two sets of clothes. Euros. Some photos. My feet.

225 miles to hike on unknown terrain that had no map, but seashells in the ground as markers or random arrows painted on tree trunks.

But before that  flight and the pilgrimage, came the preparation.

Let's just say that I was not a hiker.

Let's just say that going to REI was like walking into a baby nursery...I had no clue what the heck I was doing.

I improvised.

Used the knowledge of those that knew a bit more about backpacks, hiking boots and the best underwear to wash in a sink.

When packing, I tried to keep it to the minimum of all needed. Heck, I even was smart enough to not pack a warm jacket (said no one EVER).

From what I had read from past pilgrims, you'd end up with a lighter load by the time you'd reach Santiago (the destination).

It was the journey of a lifetime. A journey that kept me from any distractions (which had a way of being an escape from my harsh reality), and put me smack dab in a room with my thoughts and emotions as I hiked in silence 12 hours a day.

I had no preconceived notions on what the journey would consist of or do for my soul, and that ended up being my most valuable tool to carrying the load on my back and in my heart.

I came across those on the camino that came into it with different expectations.

They wanted to be healed. Cured.

They wanted it so bad that each hope for it all to disappear. was like throwing a rock into one's pack.

It weighed them down.

Broke them down.

Until arriving to a place of anger and resentment for the journey that they expected to take their load off of them.

Never realizing that it was our duty to adjust our pack as nature and heart told us.

The camino changed my life.

It changed my perspective on how to live in the now.

To know that everything you need will come at the right moment for your heart (not when your mind tells you it needs it).

By the end of my 20 days in Spain, the other pilgrims were correct.

I had less in my backpack.

I had dumped the unnecessary to see the true essentials, and without even realizing it,  done the same for my soul.

We'll all take many journeys in our time and it's our duty to create a load that we have unwavering faith that we can carry...because we can...we will...we just need not to anticipate what that load will bring us.

<p style="text-align: center;"><em> “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”-Lena Horne </em></p>

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

There is nothing that will make you feel quite as tiny and insignificant in the universe as when you are completely alone in a room, choking. 

Nothing drives home the very smallness and randomness of your purpose here on Earth, than almost being taken out by some chicken noodle soup.

Yup. You heard me. You read that correctly. On Monday, October 21st, this week, I almost died. For real. I was very, very close to choking so badly, that I could no longer speak, breathe, or function. Very, very close. 

It all began innocently enough. I was sitting here in my home office, where I am right this minute, where I do all of my many writing assignments and projects. I'm in the middle of writing a book about my husband, and our love story, and the brutal and often hilarious truths about grief. In addition to that, I also write a monthly humor article for Modern Widows Club Magazine, and I write weekly funny TV reviews of shows like Dancing With the Stars for an entertainment and pop culture site called poptimal. Then, of course, I write here at Widows Voice, and I write in my own personal blog too, which is what I was doing on Monday when I almost died. 

So there I was. A widow, writing one of her many widow-related assignments in the middle of the day, just an hour before leaving for the city for my weekly grief-counseling session. I was just getting over the flu or a really terrible cold, so I had picked up this really yummy chicken noodle soup they have at a nearby deli on my block. Their soup is very good, as Ive had it before, and I wanted something to soothe my throat as my appetite hadn't fully returned yet. So there I sat - sipping my soup and writing my widow words - when suddenly, instantly, shockingly - something extremely sharp and painful got stuck in the exact middle of my throat. 

I felt my face flush red as I pushed back from my chair at lightning speed. Somehow, I thought the object may be far enough back that I could finish swallowing it, so I grabbed a water bottle from the fridge and drank fast, trying like hell to get it down. It remained in the worst part of my throat possible, and it was soooo sharp. It felt like there was a needle or a thin piece of wood splint inside my throat. My insides made scary noises and I gasped for air as I leaned forward over my kitchen counter, trying to recall the lessons that my paramedic husband had given me on how to give myself the Heimlich Maneuvre if I ever needed to. Why didnt I listen??? What did he say??? How do I save myself??? Somehow, I panicked and took action at the exact same time, not having a clue what I was doing or why. My eyes watered and I coughed and coughed and coughed, and then continued to try and push the foreign object out of me, hoping and begging and praying that it would shoot out of my person like some animated alien, emerging out of the dark. 

You know, it is absolutely stunning how many billions of unrelated, disconnected, anxious thoughts can go through one's brain, while simultaneously choking and gasping for air. As I struggled to stay alive over my kitchen sink, this was my ridiculous inner-monologue: 

This is it. Im dying today. This is how it all ends. Just like my poor husband. Collapsing. Alone. Where are my kitties? When did I feed them? Oh shit, they need water in their bowl. Where is my phone? I have to call 911. But I cant speak. There is a glass window inside my throat. That is what it feels like. It feels like an ice-pick. WHAT THE HELL IS IN MY THROAT??? Oh my god, where is my phone? Is it even charged? I dont think its charged. I really should keep it charged. Im going to die right here on this hard kitchen floor. Its dirty. I cant die on a dirty floor. It will be hours before my roommate returns and finds me. Hours. I wonder how she will get my share of the rent next month if Im dead. This is so embarassing. I was eating soup. What the hell did they put in my soup? WHO CHOKES ON SOUP??? I can just see the headline in tomorrows local newspapers: "Widow Chokes and Dies While Writing Widow Blog." Ironic, isnt it? Alannis Morissette would have a field day with this one. Oh who am I kidding? This wont make the NEWSPAPER. Who am I? Im nobody. Im not famous. Wow this is a really long time to be choking. I really think Im dying. This is the end. Shit! I havent even finished my book! I really wanted to see this week's episode of NASHVILLE on my DVR. Dammit! This is really what it was all about? Soup? What is the point of all this? You try and live a life and have goals and dreams, and in the end, you can just disappear in a nano-second, because of soup. What the hell is in this....... 

And just like that, it was over. My gasping and choking and coughing and watery eyes had started to calm down. The last big cough had catapulted the enemy right into the sink, and the enemy was a goddamn bay leaf. Not a big juicy chewy steak or some rubbery calamari, or even some grains of rice. Nope. Not me. This widow almost gets taken out by a friggin' bay leaf. 

I gathered my things and headed into the city to see my counselor, and when I got to her, I asked her to please make me some tea to help soothe my throat, and then I told her my story. I then proceeded to sob for almost the entire session while talking to her. Sobbing about being a few days away from my "would have been" 7 year wedding anniversary. Sobbing about leftover feelings of guilt and regret at the last weeks and months of my husband's life. Sobbing because life is so goddamn fragile, and because I still cannot comprehend that my husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Just like my family wouldn't have been able to comprehend me being taken out by a bay leaf.  

I did learn something though. Something very big. While I was choking on that bay leaf - inside all of those other disconnected thoughts that were going on inside my brain - one thought repeated itself over and over and over, like a chorus: I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die ..... 

A lot of times, after we lose the person we thought we would spend our life with, there are many days and nights and hours, that we just dont feel like living. There have been so many times when I thought to myself: "Wouldnt it just be easier if I could just sleep and not feel this horrible pain?" I didnt want to actively end my life. I would never have done that. But I didnt feel like being alive either. 

However, when you are choking on a bay leaf, and you cant speak words and your face is bright red and you're scared you will lose consciousness, one thing goes through your heart and then travels to your mind and your soul: 

I dont want to die. I want to live. 

There is no way that my life ends at the prickly hands of a bay leaf. 
It ain't happening. 
Try again. 

Actually, please don't. 
Cuz that was really pretty scary. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

what if

In just a couple weeks, I'm coming up on 3 years. That realization along with the hormones of pregnancy has really been a lethal - and emotional - combination. I found this old post from my blog that jumped out at me as something I've been thinking about lately and thought I would share. Maybe someone, somewhere out there might connect with this too.


I play this torturous game with myself pretty regularly, where I wonder what I would do if you came back today. I don't mean to play, my mind plays and my heart can't help but join. Every time I think about it, I feel my heart jolt, almost fooling myself into believing it could be possible. But the let down after still hurts every time.

Every time I think about what I would do. What would I say? I imagine myself dropping to my knees, sobbing, in sheer and utter gratitude more powerful than any emotion I've ever felt. I'd hang on to your neck, kiss you, and scan my fingers over your face, soaking in every inch of you, asking you where you've been. I'd tell you how you wouldn't believe the hell we'd been through but it suddenly seemed like nothing with you standing in front of me. Then I'd take you to Carter, so you could finally meet the handsome boy we created.

I often think that if everyone were able to feel this kind of devastation in their hearts without having to suffer the actual loss in reality, it could change the world. It would change marriages, families, relationships. It's ironic the knowledge that comes with loss when you can't use it to appreciate what you no longer have. 

"'What' and 'if' are two words as nonthreatening as words come. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: 'What if?'..." -Letters to Juliet

It does haunt me. Every single day.
I miss you baby.
I love you always.

Drifted Back to NY ......

...... and the relief I felt as soon as I sat down in my seat on the plane yesterday morning was amazing.
It was like I had been carrying 500 pounds on my shoulders (causing a lot of pain in my neck!).  As soon as I dropped into that seat,  all of that weight lifted.
In fact, I was so relaxed that I slept through most of the flight ...... which is a rarity for me.
Carrying all of that weight is exhausting.

Letting go of it is almost exhilarating.

I'm feeling less adrift right now.
Funny, I always feel that way when I'm here.

Maybe I should stop over-thinking things and just plan on moving here as soon as my house in Texas sells.
Who says I can't change my mind at a later date?
Who says I can't find somewhere else to live if this place turns out to be less than "home"?

It seems so strange that a place so large and so full of strangers ...... feels more like "home" than any other place on earth.
I think it's the freedom I feel when I step off of the plane.

I'm free to be myself ...... and no one's bothered by that here.
No one here knows that I used to be different ...... that I had a "before".

I'm free of the concerns and responsibilities that threaten to pull me under when I'm back there.
I'm free of the memories that lurk in every corner of my house, and on almost every street of my community.

I'm free from the relationships that also used to be different ...... in our "before".
I'm not the only one who was changed by my husband's death.
Not by a long shot.
But I am the one, along with my children, who have to live in it, day in, day out .....
24 hours.

Who knew that freedom would come in a city of over 8 million people?
Not me.
But now that I know ...... I'm accepting it.
And grabbing hold of it with both hands.
And enjoying every second of it.

For as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who knows?

When I met Greg, it was at a housewarming party for mutual friends.
He danced with me, brought me drinks, held my hand and at the end of the night, he walked me to my car and kissed me softly.

Years later, we could remember exactly where we were standing when we first clapped eyes on each other.

It was love at first sight.

It was perfect after feeling rather "meh" about previous boyfriends.  I knew I hadn't loved any of them even when I was with them, but as soon as I met Greg, something in me shifted.

That love was so deep that it changed my soul. 

...and something I always appreciated was that I was never in any doubt as to his intentions: he liked me. A lot.
From the first meeting.
.... and he let me know in no uncertain terms. 
That made it really easy for me to tell him I loved him within 6 weeks of meeting him.
...and we fell deeper in love each day after

....and then 17 years later, he died.

But our love didn't.

I've spent every day since his death desperately in love with a dead man.....which, as we all know,  is both beautiful and frustrating at the same time.

It has taken more then 3 years but I finally felt ready to dip a toe into the proverbial waters again. 
For real this time. 
I am ready to find someone new even if I will never let go the love I have for Greg.

....and recently I met someone who has made me sit up and think "hey - this one is nice".

But its not been the same immediate, tumbling-fall into love.

In fact, its nothing more than a new friend:  a pen friend.

But talking to a male who is single (widowed) and clever and  who gets me is ..... alright. 
Its good actually.  
It is slow and steady with lots of words over a long distance.
I look forward to his nightly emails and I enjoy talking about my day ... my ideas ... with someone who is actually interested in what I have to say.

Maybe it will fizzle out, but maybe it will continue.  Who knows?
But whatever happens, knowing that I have made a new friend is a good feeling.... and that's enough for now.

..... the woman inside me has sat up and started paying attention again.

Monday, October 21, 2013



I believe I'm back to being single. At least it seems that way now. Time will tell. It's a bad timing thing for both of us, so who knows if the timing will be right again. I'm not going to worry about that. It's beyond my control so I let it go.

I learned so much  from this relationship and it has been good and hard and precious and enlightening and difficult and it's brought me to tears so many times. Mostly because it's pushed me to be so incredibly vulnerable with such a patched-up shattered heart. It's been scary.

The whole experience has held a mirror up to me and how I relate to men in relationships, and what I want from a partner and for my future.

I love so deeply and am so endlessly loyal that it's easy for me to get wrapped up in someone else's world while neglecting mine and I have to be vigilant about resisting that urge. I want to feel okay with me, just as I am. There might be aspects of my personality I'd like to work on, but I can't really work on them while hating myself for having them. All of me needs to be loved by me. And those I let into my life must love me too. And love ON me. And take good care of me, as I'd do for them.

There is a strange, unexplained place in my brain I keep coming back to and I'm not sure why I have been so fixated on it for the past 2 years.

It's the memory of a place I went to just months after Dave died. It's called Edgefield and it's not far from Portland. My dear friend took me to a concert there and before the concert we wandered around the property.

 It's a beautiful place with a romantic hotel and restaurant, vineyards, a glass blowing studio and a great concert lawn. As we walked around and eventually watched that concert, we were surrounded by couples, and to my shattered heart, everyone seemed deliriously in love.

 It was as though I'd found the most romantic place in all of Oregon and everyone was mocking me with their blissful loving touches and looks. It both pierced my heart with horrific pain and made me long for what they had. I remember thinking that I didn't want to live the rest of my life never having that again.

I prayed that I'd one day get to come back to that place and have a partner to share it with. I've watched too many romantic movies because I even pictured it as a place where someone might one day propose to me. I wanted that person to be Dave. I wanted him back and I wanted to turn back the clock and experience it all with him, but I also knew that that would never happen and that I might be around for a LONG time and that I'd be damned if I didn't get to experience that again before I myself died.

Ever since that day at Edgefield, the memory and image of the place pops into my head from time to time. Pretty regularly, actually. I have somehow associated that place with my chance to have a great love again.

I don't know if that's greedy or silly, wishful thinking or what. I don't really understand why that place means so much to me or why I keep thinking that I'm destined to experience it one day, with the love of my second life.

Sometimes I really wish I weren't such a romantic. Maybe I'm just torturing myself with mushy ideals from the movies. Maybe I'm just longing for something that doesn't or won't exist for me again. But I want it anyway. I'm wanty. I'm full of wants. I want a love that begins to make me feel alive again. I want a love that is big enough to hold me and all of my baggage. I want a love that's endlessly loyal and patient and real. I want to feel precious to someone else. I want to have that one person who I tell ALL my stories to because I know he'll want to hear them. It might be unrealistic. It might not be. I have no idea. I just know I want it.

But wanting it and deserving it don't make it happen. It's not something I can track down and then pin down, like a butterfly for an insect collection in middle school. It's something I can make space for and wait for and hope for.

It's something I get my hopes up for and that is incredibly hard for me to do. It's so hard to do that I just winced and felt sick to my stomach as I typed the words "get my hopes up".

It seems like it will hurt so much more if I let myself hope and then get crushed than if I just never aim for it in the first place.

But that's utter bullshit and I know it.

My poor heart just really wants to give up on hoping and the pain that comes along with the loss of what it's hoped for. It's had ENOUGH for now. But somehow, the hope is still there.

Every time I think of Edgefield, the hope wells up, just a tiny bit, as I imagine that it could happen to me. Again. Stranger things have happened, after all.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Being Kicked

Seth and Clifford - 2004

I've been struggling with my dog, Clifford. He had a shoulder injury that seemed to be getting better thanks to the vet and pain medication.

Monday I got up at 3:30am to go to work and I couldn't find Clifford. After searching the house, I found him sitting in the bathtub just staring at the wall. Not laying down, just staring. He wouldn't even look at me.

Right then I knew my baby was dying. For anyone that has seen the death look in an animal knows the look.

By time the vet opened at 8:00am Clifford was in shock, needed blood transfusions and was admitted to the doggy hospital. He had an ultrasound later that afternoon, and the diagnoses was cancer. It’s through his whole abdomen, in his liver and spleen. Most likely will spread to his lungs next.

I am devastated.

You see.. Clifford is our dog. Seth got him for me for my birthday in 2004. He was just six weeks old and has been my baby since the first time I laid eyes on him.

Through Seth’s death, he was my rock. I remember shortly after the funeral I was sitting on the couch hysterically crying. Clifford came up and put his head on my shoulder and licked the tears off my face. I realized that even though he was grieving (both my dogs went through a really weird grief stage) he was able to put his own pain and grief aside and take care of me.

Fast forward to now. I have decided to not do treatment on Clifford, other than pain management. After all, there isn't anything the vet can do other then blood transfusions every couple weeks.. which would mean he would need to be hospitalized every couple weeks. I.just.can’ I can’t put him in the scary hospital for a short term solution. I can't put him through fear and pain for my own selfish reasons.

I have been in panic mode since Monday. Taking care of Clifford. Trying to make sure he is comfortable until it’s time to send him home to his daddy. Every night we are up several times a night, shoving pain pills down his throat and his multiple trips to the potty.

I am exhausted.

I am angry. Pissed off at Seth. Pissed that because my husband killed himself I am doing this alone. Pissed off that my husband isn't protecting us, yet again.
Clifford rolling around in the grass and sunshine.
Despite the fact that he is dying, he finds joy in the simple pleasures.

Shortly after Clifford’s diagnoses I had the following dream.

I was walking into a sporting goods store. I knew exactly where I was going and what I needed (Can’t remember what I needed). As I walked into the store, Seth was standing there with two of his friends. I thought SHIT. Pretend like you don’t see him, just walk past him fast, maybe he won’t see me.

After I quickly walked past Seth and his friends, Seth came up behind me. He kept kicking me in the butt and back, with each kick it would launch me forward. After the third or fourth kick he said “What, you just going to pretend like you don’t know me??”

I was furious. I whipped my head around and yelled at him. “You haven’t talked to me in three years. You just up and disappeared. You left me, and now expect me to pretend like I’m happy to see you??”

He didn't get the clue. He continued “What’s up, what’s new?”

“I don’t need your shit today. Clifford is dying. He was just diagnosed with cancer. The last thing I need is your shit.”

He started crying “don’t lie to me, Clifford can’t be dying, how did this happen?”

I was so angry I could have choked him. “If you were around for the last three years and were part of our family, you would know all this. Instead you abounded us and left us to figure out all this shit on our own.”

I woke up. I woke up angry. I couldn't shake the look in Seth’s eyes when I told him Clifford was dying.

Looking back the dream seems symbolic. Seth kicking me repeatedly when I don’t have the energy to get back up. Like in real life, I can’t recover from one thing before I get kicked back to my knees. Obviously I am angry Seth isn't here and my anger came out in my dream.

This is one of the worst things I have been through. It is completely devastating. I never imagined having one of my dogs die would be this devastating.

Today I reached my breaking point and asked for help. I have a friend coming to stay the night and be on Clifford duty for the night, so I can grieve and sleep.. and know my baby is being taken care of.

The silver lining in it all? When Clifford’s time has come I can have a vet come to our home and send him home to Seth. I don’t have to take him to the scary vet’s office and have him die on a cold metal table. He can be at home with his friends, family and doggy sister Juna.

I find peace in knowing I can put him out of his pain. I find anger in knowing I couldn't just put my husband to sleep and put him out of his suffering rather than him shooting himself alone in the mountains.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


How many things do we deny.

Deny ourselves to feel, grasp, understand, embrace.

Deny out of fear. Injustice. Pain. Feeling.

Yet there is a simple truth that we all innately know, yet somehow try to veer ourselves away from.

In one small word..One opposite....


For it is only when we don't deny the reality of something, that we can respond to it.

When Michael died, I did every thing I could to deny it. Whether it be never leaving my house to staying stuck in my bubble of grief. Yet, it was once I finally accepted that I was a widow...his widow...that change occurred within me.

Difficult, nonetheless. But necessary.

We all have hopes to make the world (even if only our world), a better place. A place that is left better than it was than when we entered it. And yet, a world that is impossible to reach until we take the first step in paving this necessary journey. Accepting. Embracing. Not Denying.


For the better.

Sometimes tougher.

But a life worth living.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I Am Alone. I Am With You.

Here is a riddle:
What is more sad? Going to the movies alone, or going to the movies with a group of friends, who barely speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence?
This past weekend, I really wanted to see Gravity. So I went alone. Going to the movies, or anywhere really, by myself, is not a big deal to me. When I was married, and we were sharing our life together, I did lots of things alone. And he did too. We were two very independent people, who loved and valued our time alone, and who also loved and cherished spending time with one another. We loved each other’s company, but neither of us had any issue with doing things by ourselves sometimes. So, I have been to the movies, several times, alone.
But here is something that the “non-widowed” world doesn’t quite understand. Going to the movies – or anywhere – by yourself, because you feel like it and because it’s a choice while married or partnered up – is completely different than going places alone because your husband is dead, and everyone else is coupled up, or has plans, or doesn’t want to – and so you have to. The first one is a decision you make within the luxury of a relationship. The second one often results in severe loneliness, intense sadness, guilt, anger, annoyance, and the kind of soul-crushing isolation that not many people comprehend.
That is how it was for me. In the beginning. The first year and a half or so of this new “after” life. Every time I left my apartment to venture out and do something, was like being dropped off inside of a haunted house. My heart would race, not knowing what emotions or unexpected terrors would be lurking in the corners, waiting for me. I would panic that the movie or the dinner or the Broadway show or the night out with friends or the whatever - would bring up flashes and scenes and fragments – that would further put the focus on my own solitude, or my marriage that was gone, or my future that would not be, or the day that I woke up and he had already gone to work, and then already gone from earth.

So I would go out into the world during these early days of grief, and after awhile, the panic and the earthquake brewing inside of me, just became part of my new normal, the new me. And sometimes I would get so tired of sitting in the apartment alone and feel so suffocated, that I would force myself to take a walk or see a movie down the street. And then sometimes that walk or that movie would just make things worse, watching the couples laugh hand in hand or having a story line in a film take me to a place emotionally that I was not yet ready to go to.
And in those early days of grief, people everywhere, all the time, constantly, would say to me, in response to me saying that I feel so alone: “You are not alone. He is always with you.” Most of the time, this remark would be coming from someone who was probably typing or saying those words while their life-partner stood right beside them or sat in the next room or nearby – breathing air and living life. And so, most times, when this was said to me, my immediate reaction (privately) was that I might enjoy throwing this person into the nearest lake or hitting them repeatedly in the eyeball with a 2×4, because it is such a lame and cliche’ and thoughtless thing to say to someone, and the fact that YOU think he is always with me, means absolutely nothing if I can’t feel it.
 And I couldnt. I couldnt feel it. I could not feel him with me, no matter how many times people said it, because the pain and the grief and the thick fog of the air I now breathed in this new life – was too overwhelming to let anything else in. Nothing could get in. Only pain.
But then, with that pain, something happened during grief. Time. Time happened. And time does not heal all wounds. That is more bullshit cliche’ said by those who don’t know what to say. No. But time happened, and while it was happening, my heart and my brain and my skin and my toes began to finally process what had happened. Really, actually process it and sit with it and watch as the fog lifted, up up and away from my soul. And once that happened, the pain was still there – but I was no longer terrified by it. The grief monster still lurked – but I stared him down and waited. The sobbing still took place regularly, but I stopped fighting with it and let it flow through me like rain tap-dancing on an umbrella.
And once all of that happened and that shift occured, something else did too - I could feel him. I could feel him with me. Not all of the time. But some of the time. A lot of the time.
And so, that brings me back to Saturday. At the movies. Alone. I sat there, on the end seat of an aisle in a very crowded theatre – feeling peaceful and anxious to see the film. A group of 4 girls all sat down in my row, one of them next to me. They were loud and obnoxious and rude and clueless about life’s struggles. They all took out their phones and put them on silent, and began texting and playing games and using Apps and shoving their teenage faces into their devices, never once looking at or addressing one another, the very people that they chose to spend time with and see a movie with. One of them looked in my direction, and then texted the other one, and they both giggled. I can only imagine that she was texting about me, saying something like: “Who goes to the movies alone? What a loser.” 
And yet, as that movie went on and it became clear that the plot device of floating around in space was being used as a brilliant metaphor for living, dying, and then living again, I actually started to feel sorry for these idiotic girls next to me. Because here they were, in this beautiful theater, in the greatest city in the world, lucky enough to have a group of friends to spend time with, and to be seeing this film that had so much to say and teach about finding the strength through pain to live again – and they didn’t get any of it. They were right there, inside of it, and they were missing it. They were missing all of it. They couldn’t see any of the beauty or the pain or the truths or the glorious, ordinary moments that were surrounding them right that very minute. Their eyes were glued to their phones, and their souls were lying dormant.
In my chair, something else was happening. Something that felt like home. I was watching a beautiful and thrilling movie alone, and I was watching it with my husband. His entire spirit and personality and being felt like it was inside of me, like it had entered my veins and sat in my bloodstream. I could almost feel his touch next to me. Almost feel his arm brushing up against mine, see him smiling at me, hear him sipping his root beer and leaning over to whisper like he would sometimes: “This is awesome!” 
And for the first time in a long time, instead of me thinking to myself or telling others: “He would have loved this movie so much! I wish he was here!”, I had no need to tell anyone anything, because he did love the movie, and he was there. Not because someone told me so, but because I could feel it.
And no, feeling my husband with me in spirit or soul is not even close to the same as him actually being here with me, for real, in our life together. It’s a pretty shitty substitute, honestly. But it’s a hell of a lot better to feel him with me, than to not feel him with me. And it took 2 years and 3 months for me to feel him around me on a more regular basis. For me to talk to him out loud and not feel like a complete jackass, or like a lunatic talking to myself. It took all of this time just to come to a place where my insides aren’t spinning, and where the dizziness paused. The pain and the grief that was once pounding on my temple and stabbing at my heart – now lies a bit further away, like background music  that I hear faintly as I live my life. Finally, the noise has been turned down enough to let other things in besides pain. Things like laughter that feels real again, taste-buds that crave foods again, and eyes that see the fall colors again. Now that the pain isn’t pushing its way into every available crevice, there is room for me to feel my husband. To feel and know that he is with me, even though he can’t be with me.
So back to that riddle. What is more sad? Going to the movies alone, or going to the movies with a group of friends who barely speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence?
Well, the answer is a matter of opinion, so I will leave that one up to you. But the question itself is not really valid, because it’s a trick question. I went to that movie alone, but I was never really alone. None of us are. Not really. Not entirely. Not truly.
For when I close my eyes really tightly, and I push away the hurt and the fear and the death, I find that there is just enough space leftover, to let one more thing inside.
Come sit next to me now. For I am alone. I am with you.
(Apologies for the weird background on this post. It was copy / pasted over from my personal blog, and this bizarre background always appears when I copy paste something. To see the full version of this post, you can see my blog at .Pictured is my late husband Don , in silhouette, walking his favorite Florida Beach in Clearwater.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The battle


This weekend as we traveled to Indiana, Michigan, and back to West Virginia in 3 short days, we logged a lot of hours in the car. Sometimes I dread long trips because let's face it: we have 5 children packed into our vehicle like sardines, who we lovingly refer to as "the pee and flee gang" constantly asking us to stop, fighting over what movie to watch next, and just in general making our trips a little more, well....complicated. But most of the time, I enjoy the time just to sit and veg out for awhile, to listen to music, to read with my husband, and to dream, talk, listen, and grow with each other while the scenery passes by us.

As we made our way home starting at 9pm Sunday night, we had a nice silent car ride with our children sleeping almost the entire trip - which made for lots of great conversation to keep us both awake (ok, I may have dozed off for awhile...) But Steve asked me a question in the midst of our drive that really resonated with me.

"Do you ever feel like you battle wanting to live in the past versus living in the now?"

It resonated with me because I think every person reading this blog understands this battle. To be completely honest, YES. I do battle wanting to live in the past. Not because I am not thankful for my now or because I'm not looking forward to the future, but because my past is the only place that Jeremy lives. It's the only place I see him laugh, hear his voice, or watch him play with his children.

What I can say is that I've come a long way in this battle since the beginning. I used to ONLY want to live in the past. The present and the future meant nothing to me with him in it. Everything seemed meaningless without him next to me. And I still have those moments where I just wish I could go back for even a moment....just to see his face one more time.

But now, the battle is not about wanting to live in the past, but rather trying to figure out how to carry my past with me into my future. I still miss Jeremy every. single. day. Sometimes it still hurts so bad that the weight of it makes it hard to breathe. I want to be able to share with him life's ups and downs, to talk through things with him, to hear him laugh at the things only the two of us think is funny. I want to seek his advice, to share moments with him. But I also know that I love and appreciate my now and everything that comes with it - and most of it I would never have if he were still here. I try to never compare the past to now because it's apples and oranges - it gets me nowhere and it's comparing two different people.

Our now deserves just as much attention as our then. Both are precious in their own right, and we have to use what our then has shaped us to be to create a new and meaningful now.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Feeling Adrift ......

...... like someone alone in a canoe ...... with no oar, no compass.

I feel as though I'm living in some kind of in-between layer of life.  It feels like I don't belong anywhere anymore ...... like a tree that's been cut away from its roots.
No place feels like "home" right now, or whatever "home" used to feel like.

My house in Texas is on the market and most of the time I feel like that's the right decision.  But then the shadow of doubt creeps in and starts to cloud my mind and I don't know what's right for me.

I love NY, but I wonder if I'll be too lonely in the long run.  I know that sounds crazy to most people ...... how can you feel lonely in a place where almost 8 million other people live?
I also know that I don't have to explain that feeling here.  You get that.  You have most likely felt the same dark loneliness in a room full of people.
I used to feel that way often in the first year or two of grieving.  I thought that it had passed.
I was wrong.

I seem to feel lonely no matter where I am.  Not all of the time, but definitely more lately.  Home is no longer "home", but then ...... neither is anywhere else.
I miss my roots.

I have no doubt that I'd be feeling something quite like this if Jim were alive.  After all, our youngest child left for college 2 months ago.  I know that this is partly "empty nest syndrome".
But I also know that this "rootless" feeling is another result of his death.
In a world full of couples, of shifted relationships, of empty bedrooms ...... the person I most belonged with is missing.  The one relationship here on earth that I knew was as solid as stone no longer grounds me ...... no longer helps me feel that I belong.

Experience tells me that this feeling will most likely pass.
It also tells me that it may take some time.
It does not, however, tell me what I should decide.
Or where I should put down new roots.

That's where hope comes in.
I hope that this loneliness will fade soon and that I'll be able to decide what my next step should be.

And I hope that I will once again feel a sense of belonging.
Wherever my canoe lands.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Victim Mentality

Last week I had no internet access for over 4 days (hence the lack of WV post).
I also had no TV access as it runs from the same cable.
I was going stir crazy as I was needing to get online to finalise things for my return to work after the holidays.
WHY was this happening to me.
....and then I gave myself a good shake, a kick up the bum and asked myself if anyone I loved would die as a result of a faulty internet cable.

I was sinking into "victim mentality"*.

This week, I was speaking to someone who had every excuse in the book for their own poor behaviour.  Every excuse! Nothing was their own fault but life's circumstances meant they thought it was OK to treat others in an appalling way.
They were appealing to me for sympathy for their situation ... but frankly, I couldn't muster much.  To be honest, I was thinking to myself that they needed to get a bit of perspective: nobody was dead.

So many people seem to carry around a form a of victim mentality with them.
So many people do not realise that EVERYONE is carrying a burden. 
They don't realise that nobody's life is perfect.
They don't realise that every day we have the choice to put our problems in perspective ....

....and as a teacher, I can see that this "poor me" mentality is being passed on to children by parents who have no coping mechanisms.  So many of children I meet have poor resilience to even the slightest stress that I really do worry about how they will cope with something that is really horrible.

 ... like death.

Even tonight I find myself feeling a bit sorry for myself as I have had a rough day. 
A new relationship that I had thought was developing slowly-but-surely is no longer developing. 
I feel like I am ugly and old and boring and why would anyone want to date me anyway?
I am tired: this week I have too many places to be in at the same time. 
Everyone I speak to seems to need another piece of me.
Every question is an intrusion into my already tired mind.
I am jumpy and annoyed at the world.
I am feeling sad and sorry for myself.

Nobody is dead. 

Nothing I am going through now even comes close to touching that true tragedy.
...and I have to remember that I can have the odd pity party,
....actually, I *deserve* the occasional slump into feeling hard-done-by,
....but sinking into victimhood is not helpful to me or anyone else.

So tonight I will moan and groan at how bloody AWFUL this week has been and how hard the rest of it will be, but by tomorrow I will wake up and remember that I have already endured something that would break so many other people and that my current woes are small.

I will remember that I am strong.
I will remember that I am not a victim.
I will choose hope.

 (* Victim mentality is an acquired (learned) personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case - even in the absence of clear evidence. )